By RYAN NAKASHIMA
LAS VEGAS – Mark Ewing, a 31-year-old entrepreneur and day trader who quit his job two months ago to “take some risks in life,” parlayed a $10,000 buy-in into $250,000 by winning the World Series of Golf on Wednesday.
The 10-handicapper from Newport Beach, Calif., knocked out two professional poker players, an electrician and a former railroad conductor at the end of the three-day tournament.
“I resigned two months ago as the VP of sales for a commercial construction company to pursue other opportunities and to take some risks in life,” Ewing said. “This is great. This is awesome. There's no better way to spend a week in Vegas.”
The inaugural tournament at the Primm Valley Golf Club in Primm, about 40 miles south of Las Vegas, used poker betting in place of traditional scoring. Each of the 60 players started Monday with $10,000 in chips, meticulously accounted for by a croupier who tallied the round of betting before each shot.
Players could go all-in after their tee shot, or fold, pick up their ball and walk to the next hole if they hit a bad shot. The player with the fewest strokes on the hole won the pot for that hole.
On the final, par-4 16th, Ewing had a commanding chip lead of $442,600 with the ante at $38,400.
Rhett Butler, a 45-year-old insurance agent and poker pro from Rockville, Md., who finished fifth in the World Series of Poker last year, had $108,800. Paul Schuller, a 49-year-old electrician from Clinton, Wash., had $47,600.
Ewing hit a 5-wood into the left rough about 140 yards from the pin, while Butler and Schuller landed in the fairway. Ewing pushed all-in, forcing his short-stacked opponents to call. He stuck his nine iron on the green while his opponents missed. When they failed to get up and down, Ewing two-putted for par and the win and the pot.
As easy as the money came, Ewing said his gambling wasn't over yet. Two partners who each paid a third of his entry fee and acted as caddies and betting advisers planned to make one big bet before going home.
“We're going to blow $40,000 on one hand of blackjack when we get back to The Mirage,” Ewing said.
In the final group of five players, Las Vegas poker pro Phil Ivey finished fourth and won $40,000, and Ken Tanner, a 60-year-old retired railroad conductor from Penrose, Colo., went out in fifth with a payday of $30,000.